Saturday, March 12, 2011

Surviving the NICU

Do we really ever survive the NICU? I’m not sure. I think we cope the best we can. We, in our own ways find a new sense of normal. It may not be the normal we planned but it our normal and it just as good if not better.

I can’t count how many times I heard “I don’t know how you do it!”.

Well...that pretty simple really. You sort of don’t have a choice. Do you? You “just do it”.

As I would sit by the isolette for 8-12 hours a day, and  as the weeks slowly went by, I slowly, came to accept what was happening.

By simply accepting I somehow felt empowered. I remember thinking “I have no control over what’s happening to my son, but I do have control over how I cope with it. I can either sit here and do nothing or I can try to make this stay tolerable. Create 'my own normal' for the time I was here.
I needed a “plan” to survive the NICU journey.

The way I survived the NICU was to fill myself with knowledge. Not only about my child’s illness and care but also on how I would cope on a day to day basis. What did all those numbers mean on the machine he was on?  What did blood results mean?  How do I know if he's in distress, color of skin/lips, breathing etc..... What was I was going to do when we got home. What was my plan?

I started talking other moms in similar situations. Mom's I met in the NICU, searching online in forums such as there are now many Facebook pages out there that are a great support. I learned the ins/outs of home nursing. I learned how to deal with homecare agencies. I learned how to set up our very own NICU in our home! My original plan just wasn’t going to work.

I started to get get to know the ‘team’, the people responsible for taking care of my baby. To my amazement I realized these people were actually human! Who’d of thought! This also helped me become more comfortable when I couldn’t be there.

Then I started to create a temporary ‘home’ right there, in the NICU. I brought in a CD Player and  music for my son to listen to.

I bought a tape recorder recorded our voice reading stories so that when we couldn’t be there the nurses could play the recorder he could hear our voices. Our personal favorites were The Little Engine That Could and Oh, Baby, the Places You'll Go!

 I brought in clothes and dressed him up! (that is, as much as the nurses would allow me to).

We bought the Tiny Love Classic Mobile (This was his favorite, he went through 3 of them! To this day plays with little monkey and frog).

A boppy pillow, so that he could sit up and look around.

A portable baby swing. For days when he could get some soothing movement other than having to just lie there.

NICU crib art is something new and fun.  Check it out!

Keep a Journal  download My Preemie App!  this is a great way to vent, reflect and keep track of how far your baby has come.

I was also in touch with the child-life specialist within the hospital. They have toys and will take the time to play with your baby when you aren't unable to be there.

Spend as much time in the NICU as you can.  Be with your baby, know your baby.  When you can't be there call and check in.  No matter how long or short your stay in the NICU is.  It's still quite the journey.

Aside from this, how did I survive the NICU? Well,I just took one day at a time. Prayed for patience, strength and peace of mind. Then I just let the rest be as it was meant to be.


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